October 3, 2000
The Daily Prospectus
I Want Out of the Circus
Scratch that. I am speaking, of course, of the headline news that was Shane Halter day in Detroit, where Halter played nine positions in a major league game.
After the game, Tigers manager Phil Garner had some insightful commentary about the strategy of moving Halter every inning. "I don't ever want to make a travesty of the game under my watch," Garner said. Call me grumpy, but that's exactly what happened on Sunday.
I don't have to tell you that playing a guy at every position is nothing more than a stunt--you're not getting any advantage letting Halter flash his batting-practice fastball from the mound. The gyrations the rest of the team has to go through to make this happen--Brad Ausmus at second base?--are substantial.
The upside? Halter, who is not likely to make his way into the record book in any meaningful category, gets a little slice of history, and the Tigers get plenty of headlines to cap another thoroughly mediocre season.
If I'm Bobby Higginson or Juan Gonzalez, I'm wondering how I get out of this circus. Being that we're talking about the Tigers here, I'd be wondering that anyway, but that's another slice of pizza entirely.
What's my problem with the whole thing? To tell you the truth, I'm still not sure. I think it has something to do with bald-faced insignificant record grabs, and the effect they have on a baseball game. On Sunday, Phil Garner and the rest of the Tigers decided that creating Shane Halter's little place in history was more important than winning a baseball game. Sure, they didn't have a postseason spot to play for, but when teams with their acts together are getting a look at their prospects and preparing to make roster decisions next year, los Tigres are consumed with the quest for insignifica, and they get lots of positive attention for it.
Despite Halter's gushing after the game, playing nine positions in a major league game is not an achievement. All it requires is a manager who is willing to lose the game, and Frank Thomas or Rich Garces could do it. Now, Brent Mayne winning the game for Colorado on the mound earlier this year--that was cool. The team was out of pitchers, they needed an improbable hero, and Mayne stepped up to the plate and homered. He didn't have his manager playing puppet master behind the scenes, moving everyone out of position in order to give Mayne his fifteen minutes.
Before this season, two guys had played nine positions in a major league game. Now, we're up to four. In an insignificant way, this is just making a mockery of the game, and what I'd really like to see is some team make a mockery of the record. Next year, if the Astros have a season like they had this year and are out of it, it'd be great to see the entire team change positions every inning for a game--Daryle Ward playing shortstop, Jeff Bagwell backing him up in center field, and Scott Elarton flashing his glove at the hot corner. Maybe that'd dilute the record so thoroughly I don't have to read about the next scrub who convinces his manager to play Chutes and Ladders with his starting nine again.
Sorry for the long-form rant. I guess part of me is somewhat nostalgic for the era when letting Greg Harris pitch from both sides in a game just for the hell of it was considered more than a bit self-congratulatory.